Residence hall association loses funding from Campus Dining & Shops
Students say cuts come with new culture at UB following Black, Costantino embezzlement
The number of UB students living on campus has grown steadily, evident as underclassmen begin to spill over into traditionally upperclassmen complexes. And yet as of last fall, UB has cut funding for the student organization that supports resident life programming by more than $10,000.
RHA, the second-largest student-run governing body on campus, represents the 7,000 plus students who live in UB’s 13 residence halls and five apartment complexes. There are roughly 90 elected RHA officials who meet regularly with UB officials to advocate for residents’ concerns.
In 2016-17, RHA operated with a $75,000 budget; $65,000 from state funds allocated based on an annual number of residents, and $10,000 from the university-affiliated nonprofit Campus Dining & Shops, which runs dining and shop services on campus.
As of this year, RHA no longer receives any funding from CD&S. RHA President Nate Pelkey said the loss in funding has been “a bit of a hurdle,” but that he understands why the university is “tightening up” oversight of Campus Living spending.
Pelkey, a junior aerospace engineering major, said he thinks the cut is part of an increased effort by UB administrators to tighten up spending and fiscal oversight in the wake of former Campus Living officials Dennis Black and Andrea Costantino’s embezzlement of student funds.
UB officials were not able to respond in time for print when asked why RHA has stopped receiving funding from CD&S.
RHA has adjusted to the budget cut by slashing funding for programming by nearly $8,000. It has also scaled back its end-of-the-year award ceremony, banquet and leadership conferences by nearly $4,500.
In past years, RHA has held its annual banquet at the more upscale venue Sean Patrick’s on Millersport Highway, for $24 per head. This year, residents will have a more frugal luncheon at the Center for Tomorrow, catered by CD&S, for roughly $8 less per person, Pelkey said. The banquet location was submitted for approval by Campus Living directors, with the goal of finding a more cost-effective location.
The administration’s push for a more low-key banquet is in line with what Pelkey and others in RHA describe as a culture where administrators are more “scared” about the potential for misuse of funds.
“Obviously the things that have happened the last couple years with [embezzlement within the Faculty-Student Association] have been scary, especially for new officials that have stepped into roles higher up in UB,” Pelkey said.
Cheryl Porzi, a senior occupational therapy major and former RHA treasurer, said she has also noticed a shift in the administration’s attitude toward spending and financial oversight since Black and Costantino’s arrests. Porzi said she understands these efforts, but is discouraged that it’s impacting programming and community-building events like banquets and award ceremonies.
“[It] makes sense,” Porzi said. “Any good administration would learn from a situation like that and be careful to protect their institution… However, it’s unfortunate that student-led organizations like RHA and NRHH, that directly use these funds to give back to the students through community, are having to jump through hoops to continue with genuine service.”
Pelkey said that while most of RHA’s budget lines are adjustable, some expenses, like travel for national conferences, are mandatory for RHA to maintain its national affiliation. Last year, RHA spent $14,000 to attend national and regional leadership conferences.
Pelkey said he recognizes RHA has been able to spend “a lot of money” in the past on perks like banquets and apparel for a state-funded, student residence hall operation.
He said he is glad RHA has been able to find “middle-ground” with Campus Living administrators to cut back on spending, while still being able to acknowledge RHA members for their year-long work. Porzi said she feels the cuts will have a negative impact on residence hall leaders, but is hopeful about working with administrators to find ways around budget constrictions.
“Budget cuts have definitely impacted [our] ability to recognize student leaders and residential life staff that work tirelessly, day-in and day-out,” Porzi said. “Doing away with past valued traditions has been difficult at times, but our [e-boards] are committed to open communication with [administrators] and creativity to work around this for the time being.”
Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @crowleyspectrum